It is common knowledge that Canvey Island town council (citc) was requested by the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group to undertake a Neighbourhood Plan for the Island.
Following some investigative work by the Town Clerk the initiative was democratically rejected by the full council.
We remain convinced that a Neighbourhood Plan would, in the distinct possibility that the Borough’s Local Plan2016 were to hit the barriers, act as a valuable document indicating the areas and buildings worthy of protection, indicating clearly the Constraining factors limiting further development and creating a safer community, for the Planning Inspector to use as a positive democratic indicator of Canvey Island residents vision for our Island.
The Government website states
“Neighbourhood planning enables communities to play a much stronger role in shaping the areas in which they live and work and in supporting new development proposals. This is because unlike the parish, village or town plans that communities may have prepared, a neighbourhood plan forms part of the development plan and sits alongside the Local Plan prepared by the local planning authority. Decisions on planning applications will be made using both the Local Plan and the neighbourhood plan, and any other material considerations.”
“Neighbourhood planning can inspire local people and businesses to consider other ways to improve their neighbourhood than through the development and use of land. They may identify specific action or policies to deliver these improvements. Wider community aspirations than those relating to development and use of land can be included in a neighbourhood plan”
The “other material considerations” are crucial to our area!
They are not best supported through any Local Plan alone!
With this in mind and given the criticism from mainland sources, towards citc for not progressing with a Neighbourhood Plan, we must wonder why no mention nor proposal for a Neighbourhood Plan has emerged in any single area of the Castle Point mainland!
Given that mainland areas have been most vociferous in their objections to proposals for development and given the supposedly undemocratic (allegedly officer led) development of a Local Plan from the Core Strategy days, it is a wonder that one or another group has not been formed to process a mainland Neighbourhood Plan.
This may be the result of One version of the Local Plan indicating one area of mainland Green Belt being suitable for Housing Development, whilst an emerging Plan indicating otherwise.
One can only assume that mainland residents are either content with the current Local Plan2016 having faith in their councillors, or believe the LP2016 will fail meaning it possible, or likely, that the previous draft Local Plan (2014 version?) will prevail.
This may indicate residents total faith in their councillors or may raise the question of what the value is in Localism and the Neighbourhood Plan process, if any at all!
What Canvey Islanders can be sure of is the need to defend Canvey against unreasonable development, because at the moment both Housing and Business Development is being approved, regardless of Constraints. We believe a Neighbourhood Plan, whether in agreement or conflict of the Local Plan2016, and at whatever stage of production, is a means of documenting Canvey’s issues.
To have a document in the form of an emerging Neighbourhood Plan would be invaluable to an Inspector to consider against a possibly UnSound Local Plan!
To rely on verbal evidence during Examination is a Risk. Indeed an Inspector may limit participation in the Examination in Public only to residents and groups who have previously submitted written evidence through the consultation process.
Looking at the lack of submissions on behalf of Canvey Island this could be a problem.
As indeed it could be for all of Castle Point as the Local Plan, whichever version is Examined, will be Supported by the Evidence of CPBC Officers, and in many areas this may be unforthcoming!
The extent of the considerations of Canvey Island town council into the undertaking of a Neighbourhood plan are recorded in the citc minutes for 15th August 2016;
CO/065/16 – TO CONSIDER AND AGREE PREPARING A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN OR NEIGHBOURHOOD DEVELOPMENT ORDER Cllr M. Tucker advised members that he would read through the report, inviting members to ask questions at each stage.
Cllr T. Belford enquired whether any members of the Neighbourhood Plan Working Group set up to investigate the merits of having a plan were present to give a report of their findings.
Cllr M. Tucker advised that the findings were detailed in the report provided. Cllr M Tucker proceeded to read the report to members.
Cllr M. Tucker asked the Town Clerk to provide information on the investigations carried out on the appointment of Neighbourhood Plan Co-ordinators. The Town Clerk advised members that she had carried out investigations into other Parish and Town Council’s who had resolved to progress a Neighbourhood Plan and found that many had appointed Planning Co-ordinators to write the policies. She explained that an average hourly rate of £12.00 per hour was advertised for appointments and that she had been advised by one Parish Council that during the busier periods of policy writing, the appointment had been on a full time basis.
Cllr M Tucker proceeded to continue to read the report to members.
Cllr M. Tucker invited questions.
Cllr T Belford commented that he had failed to understand that anything that was detailed in the existing Local Plan or proposed Plan must remain and cannot be conflicted. Cllr T Belford added that he had thought that by completing a Neighbourhood Plan it would enable the Town Council to make representation to the Borough Council to say that it thought that it had not designated development properly and could suggest where development should be. He added that having reviewed the paperwork he did not believe that completing a Neighbourhood Plan would achieve what he thought it could have. Cllr T. Belford apologised to Mr Bracci as he had bought it to the Council to consider, explaining that he had misunderstood what a Neighbourhood Plan could achieve.
Cllr D Blackwell commented that everyone he had spoken with believed that by progressing a Neighbourhood Plan it would stop development. He explained that Government statistics show that Parish and Town Councils that have progressed Neighbourhood Plans have, on average, increased development by 10% in their area which is not what the residents of Canvey Island want. Cllr Blackwell commented that he had spoken with Steve Rogers the Head of Regeneration and Neighbourhoods at Castle Point Borough Council and he had said that all development sites already in the Draft 2016 Local Plan for Canvey Island would have to be carried forward into the Neighbourhood Plan.
Cllr D. Blackwell commented that in his opinion the Government inspector will review the Draft 2016 Local Plan and it will be rejected. He explained that they will then give the Borough Council six months to submit a new Plan. He commented that in his opinion, there will be a public enquiry and when the Inspector launches this it will be a great opportunity for the residents of Canvey Island to give evidence of the constraints faced on Canvey Island including COMAH sites, flooding and the fact that it has traffic problems. He added that he thinks there is a very strong case to challenge the delivery of development on Canvey Island even though it has been designated in the Draft 2016 Local Plan.
Cllr D. Blackwell advised that he had looked at Government Guidelines which state that you should not build on flood risk 3 areas until all other options had been exhausted.
Cllr D. Blackwell added that most other Parish Councils that have introduced Neighbourhood Plans are rural and have plenty of land surrounding them where they can take more housing, however, Canvey Island is an urban council with lots of constraints. Cllr D Blackwell commented that he agreed with Cllr T. Belford recommended that the Town Council should not proceed to progress a Neighbourhood Plan.
Cllr M. Tucker commented that he understood the concerns regarding the Dutch Village site, however, advised that new planning laws state that any development proposed to be built on a flood plain would be sent Government Ministers for consideration and also stated that any development already designated in the Local Plan must be considered as having outline planning permission.
Cllr J Blissett commented that she understood that the Dutch Village site had been removed from the Draft 2016 Local Plan. Cllr M. Tucker commented that the site had been taken out to balance development across the Borough.
Cllr D. Blackwell commented that when the Draft 2016 Local Plan is rejected and unless the Borough Council can come up with a feasible plan, the Government will step in and deliver a Plan and there will be no control over the designation.
Cllr J. Blissett enquired about whether development on a flood plain is preferred over development on greenbelt sites in Benfleet.
Cllr D. Blackwell advised that all government guidance says that building on a flood risk areas should be the last possible option.
Cllr B. Campagna recommended that the Town Council should formulate a representation to present to the Inspector at the time of the public enquiry.
Cllr D. Blackwell explained that the Government Inspector will work with officers initially to discuss the Local Plan and will then look at all the evidence of the constraints that are in place on Canvey Island.
Cllr D. Blackwell advised that any person that wishes to have a say at the public enquiry must lodge their objection to that Draft 2016 Local Plan to enable them to speak at that enquiry.
Cllr M. Tucker advised members of the Clerks RECOMMENDATION.
Cllr T. Belford commented that this recommendation should only be considered if the Council agree to take this forward.
Cllr J. Anderson commented that the information detailed in the report provided is sufficient to make an informed decision and that there should be no need for further investigation in this matter with the RCCE and DCLG.
Cllr M. Tucker asked members for their RECOMMENDATION.
Cllr D Blackwell RECOMMENDED that following investigation into the merits of progressing Neighbourhood Plan that the Town Council go no further with the Neighbourhood Plan.
Cllr B Campagna seconded this RECOMMENDATION. Cllr M. Tucker asked members to vote on this RECOMMENDATION with a show of hands.
Members voted and unanimously RESOLVED not to proceed to progress with a Neighbourhood Plan.
This month’s Castle Point Council meeting, on the 29th March, is expected to give consideration of a suitable response to the Planning Inspector’s criticisms of the Local Plan2016 and the failure of cpbc in its Duty to Cooperate.